Behind These Walls: 2018 Thailand Go Team Returns
Our trip comes to a close tomorrow. Within a few hours a Boeing wide-body will rocket us down the runway. Landing gear will retract, click into place, and Bangkok will dissolve into the humid cloud deck. As Eva Air brings us home, I wonder what images we’ll replay as we close our eyes.
I think we’ll remember the neon lights of a hectic downtown Bangkok riverfront, the food stands that dot the city streets and countryside roadways. The fried banana vendors that dodged traffic and the gentle lumbering elephants we saw on our last day in country.
But mostly, we’ll remember the Thai faces.
Alan and Joan Eubank, silver-haired missionaries in their 80s, have served God faithfully for 50+ years. And Nat and Sugar, world renowned Thai classical musicians who reminded us that God not only calls the poor and lowly of society, but sometimes the highly educated and accomplished into his Kingdom as well.
So many of the House of Blessing prison ministry staff stole our hearts.
There was Kayla, an auburn-haired 28 year old from Canada who works on staff. She’s the new generation of missionary, totally sold out for Jesus Christ.
And Lernne, another twenty-something young Thai man who shared his dramatic testimony with us. Before he led prison services for House of Blessing, he’d been abandoned as a child. Raised in an orphanage, he was in trouble as a youth and landed in a juvenile detention center. When he first heard about Jesus, he couldn’t comprehend how or why someone who he’d never met would love him enough to die for him.
And Dome, a 50 year old man who spent time in prison after being falsely accused. He lost his family and his business. He’s a leader at House of Blessing, but struggles with the residual hurt of being unjustly accused. After our Celebrate Recovery training, with tears in his eyes he told us, “I think God brought you here to give me this training to heal my heart.”
Then there were the Christian inmates. The young woman we met at a women’s facility who asked how she could quit drinking. What an opportunity for a Celebrate Recovery transformation. Or the 300 Christian women we led in worship at another. A half dozen of them joined us in leading a song in Swahili that raised the prison roof!
There were heart-breaking images. We saw Hmong refugees come to House of Blessing for Sunday services and food distribution. They are a people without a home or country, and no prospects of either in the near future. They exist however they can, depending on House of Blessing’s generosity for their next meal.
I don’t think we’ll ever forget the sea of men behind those walls, clanging iron gates and rusty barbed wire. Thousands of them, forgotten and shunned, men who sleep together, 40 to a room, in a 20 X 28 foot space on a hard concrete floor with a single toilet. Men whose only hope is the spiritual light held out by House of Blessing.
So much of what we’ve seen here is painful. There’s so much human despair and loneliness. But so much is beautiful. God is doing something incredible through House of Blessing. He is literally calling thousands to himself through this prison work, and we’ve been privileged to come alongside them and play an encouraging role. And in the process, we’ve been encouraged.
We all believe it’s been a good trip. Pastor Soonthorne told us as much the night before we left. “You are so encouraging to us.”
We’re all coming home changed, at least a little. That was one of our prayers as we prepared for this trip. When wheels touchdown on a damp Seattle runway, and cell phones toggle out of airplane mode, may we look a little more like Jesus than when we left.
Yours in Christ,
The Thailand Go Team